At last, the West Indies have something to cheer about. Everything went wrong for them in England in both the Tests and ODIs, and they needed this victory against New Zealand to boost their confidence. For a change, West Indies went into the home series as favourites, against an under-strength New Zealand, and lived up to their reputation. In both the batting and bowling department, the Caribbeans were far superior although the Kiwis maintained their fielding standards right throughout.
What worked in West Indies’ favour was that every time they were in trouble, someone or the other stepped up to their rescue. Chris Gayle was unstoppable for most part of the tournament. The bowlers had little idea how to deal with his swashbuckling ways. By the time they had found a way out, it was all too late. The explosive left-hander’s first failure in the series resulted in Kiwis’ only victory in the series. At that point, it seemed the visitors had exposed one of West Indies’ weaknesses. However, the home team fought back hard in the last two ODIs even when Gayle did not do much. It was an indication of the strength in West Indies’ line-up as opposed to New Zealand’s weaknesses.
One of the key factors behind West Indies’ 4-1 win apart from Gayle’s antics was the performance of spinner Sunil Narine. While Narine was exposed against a strong English batting line-up, he came into his own in familiar conditions, and against a weaker opposition. Narine looked almost unplayable for most part of the tournament, and was at his best towards the end games, deservedly picking up the man of the series award. While Narine will be accepted as a quality bowler only after his proves his prowess against bigger teams, he and West Indies should be encouraged by what was on show in the just concluded series.
Among the other players who did no harm to their reputation were all-rounders Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell. The latter, in particular, came up with the goods every time the team needed him, either with the bat or ball. His maturing was evident even before this series, however his match-winning hands reiterated that he is one for the future. As for Pollard, while he wasn’t as consistent, his big hitting knocks in a couple of games were enough to shift the momentum in West Indies’ favour. Dwayne Bravo also played the role of senior pro to perfection, chipping in at opportune moments.
Although Darren Sammy did not have a big role to play in West Indies’ much-needed win, this success should encourage him as leader to perform better, and the experience should only help him improve. If the West Indians can maintain the standards they achieved against New Zealand, there is no reason why they cannot give a tough fight to bigger opponents as well.
--By A Cricket Analyst